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In September 2020, Azerbaijan started the second large-scale war in Nagorno-Karabakh, after 26 years of frozen conflict. Following this 44-day war, a tripartite ceasefire declaration was signed on 10 November 2020, between the Azeri and Russian presidents and the Armenian prime minister, in preparation for a subsequent peace agreement.

The latter provided for the exchange of all prisoners of war between Azerbaijan on the one hand, and Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh on the other. By the beginning of 2021, all Azeri POWs were returned by Armenia to Azerbaijan. The process of return of detained Armenian POWs and civilians was done in several waves in 2021, but Azerbaijan deliberately stopped it prematurely. 

According to information from human rights NGOs confirmed by the ICRC, Baku is still holding 33 confirmed prisoners of war, whom it accuses of terrorism and has unduly sentenced to sentences ranging from 4 to 20 years in prison. In addition to these 33 prisoners of war, evidence indicates the existence of at least 80 other captured persons (videos of their capture, testimonies of freed ex POWs ...) of whom we have no more news. Azerbaijan denies their existence. The fate of these "forcibly disappeared" remains uncertain, as the ICRC has no information about them and cannot visit them.


On 15 June 2021, during a trip to Nagorno-Karabakh in the company of Turkish President Erdogan and his wife, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev openly admitted the he was "still holding many Armenian prisoners of war" in order to use them for blackmail against Armenia and demand concessions not provided for in the tripartite agreement of November 2020.

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